Sunday, June 6, 2010

'Bella' Open Thread

What did you think?


  1. I very much enjoyed this quiet, woven story. Eduardo Verastegui is a strikingly handsome man who had been a model before acting. He was very engaging as a young man who had suffered a tragic event that he simply was unable to get past. The heavy beard was such a clear marker of a man in hiding, withdrawn from a world he no longer could freely particiapate in, yet deep down inside he was a remarkably strong and steady man, devoted to his family, humble, a sensitive man and a man who could listen with empathy and compassion, yet a tragically wounded man. The scene at his home, his fathers ready acceptance of his son's guest, his caution at his son's desire to show her his car, and yet he is patient. Clearly he loves his son very much. He simply is unable to help him. And a little later when Jose is alone with his mother, distraught and inconsolable, and her care and sympathy for him ... it was so very well done.

    I very much enjoyed the quiet aspects of the telling of the story, the slow reveal of Jose's past, and the understanding we arrive at when we see his inability to move on, the intense interest he has in every life, even the life of a waitress he hardly knows. He quits what he is doing, leaves his job to be supportive of her, treats her to a fine lunch, finds her another job...and listens to her concerns, and is there with her.. it was all very nice. I never had that in my family, but I see it in others, and often in the hispanic families I see and take care of...a willingness to stay and just be present when a daughter or neice is ill. It is very nice. People do not often realize how important that is. I also enjoyed him making breakfast for his brother, sitting together, knudging him in the way brothers do to express their affection - perfect.

    But the best was the ending - which I will comment upon as soon as my reader mentions that she has seen the movie. Until then, I hope you will join us and enjoy the show.

  2. Oh, Nick, what a lovely movie this is. Such a beautiful story about acting out of love for one's neighbor, and giving deeply of one's self to do what is good, and right, and necessary. And it's not about martyrdom -- it's about seeming sacrifice that brings supreme joy.

    Tammy Blanchard is great as Nina, and all the members of Jose's family are wonderfully cast, but Eduardo Verastegui is amazing -- in spite of very little actual dialogue (and some of the most important lines in the movie are whispered, so the audience has to guess, and wait), he is completely convincing as a man who should seem too good to be true. And I don't know if I've ever seen an actor convey so much with so little of his face available, yet we see sympathy and compassion, hopefulness, distress, reflection, determination, grief and anguish, and love.

    So much love, of every kind, in this movie. Love between brothers, even where there isn't understanding; love between parents and children -- even adult children, raised to be strong enough as adults that they can turn to their parents for comfort; love among the family, all the members willing to respect and support each other's relationships; love between friends, where the ultimate trust is given.

    I loved the depiction of persuasion by way of showing someone a series of truths, as Jose leads Nina through a day of experiences that show her possibilities she could never imagine before. No arguments, no confrontations, just the presentation of realities that offered hope, where her own history could not.

    Technically, there were a few places where the out-of-order scenes were confusing -- possibly on purpose? And it took me a bit to realize the little girl in the final scene was the same one from the first, perhaps because she and Jose seemed so disconnected in the opening scene -- so as not to give too much away?

    And the ending. Now, I'm undecided abut the ending. On the one hand, the ending shows us that the most important -- and the most joyous -- parts of the story took place off-screen: Jose's committing to adopt Nina's baby, and his bringing up that little girl, undoubtedly with the help of that beautiful loving family. But, on the other hand, I don't know what I'm supposed to take away from the reunion; is Nina "coming back" to them, or is this just a visit? Maybe we're just supposed to make up our own happy epilogue. (I'm okay with that!)

    Nick, this was a wonderful movie. Thank you.

  3. "he is completely convincing as a man who should seem too good to be true."

    Is he too good to be true? He strikes me as a good man whose life collided with a tragic event that he was intimately a part of. It stopped his life and he could not go on. Nothing could make it right. Not the time in jail. Not the young women that clearly showed an interest in him. Nothing.

    The little girl that Nina brought into the world, that he had a chance to welcome and love and raise as his own - it did not make things right, but it created the opportunity for him to live and move forward. Without Jose she would not have ever lived. Through her his life again had meaning and purpose, a purpose independent of the tragedy, and yet a part of it as well. And his firm insight that Nina would want to have this little girl, that life was precious, that it could not be thrown away casually, it never could, he was right about all of that, as Nina realized to her great joy and relief, later.

    What is it Cathy? A story of forgiveness? Of redemption? Does he come to a place where he can allow to forgive himself? Does Nina forgive herself? Does life give Jose a second chance? A second chance for Nina? A second chance for Nina's unborn daughter? I would say yes to all of that, but it was more than that too.

    And through it all I felt very much for Jose, in his feelings of loss, in his inability to move on from tragedy, in his very great love for the little girl...for both little girls... and his willingness to do what he could in life to love those around him.

  4. I'm still thinking this over -- I'll get back to you tomorrow! :)

  5. Nick, I keep thinking about this story, and your question of whether it is about forgiveness, redemption, healing, second chances. I don't know... but it seems to me a bit of everything, the way important experiences in real life are.

    If Jose had been unfeeling and self-absorbed before the accident, I would say it was an atonement/redemption story, but that's not the case. He was happy and excited about the soccer deal, but appreciative, and generous in sharing his joy with the neighborhood kids. His reactions after the accident show him caring and honorable; he refuses to run away, and in staying, chooses to give up the tremendous success at his fingertips. And his response to the distraught mother, as he tries to embrace her in her hysteria, support her in her anguish, establishes that he is, as you said, "a good man whose life collided with a tragic event."

    I don't think it is about forgiveness, at least not about the seeking of another's, or the world's, forgiveness. About the healing in forgiving the self? I don't know -- we assume that Jose's brokenness is healed by choosing to save Nina and her child; certainly we see him behaving joyfully at the end, with his little girl, and welcoming Nina, but we don't know that he is "over" the torment of regret and remorse he felt since the accident, since the only sample we have of how tormented he was, is the day he spends showing Nina his alternate reality.

    Second chances? May-be... But I may be projecting here, because I believe more and more that God gives us infinite "second chances", giving us new information, new opportunities, new people in our lives to help us in ways subtle and great, and the trick is being open to the "chances", looking for the possibility of blessings in seemingly ordinary happenings.

    Jose could have sympathized with Nina, told her he was there for her, and gone back to salvage the day at the restaurant. But instead he took what he knew might be his only chance to truly help her, and spent the day showing her the second chance that was possible for her, and deciding how much of that second chance he could offer her himself.

    Nina could have thanked him, taken what comfort she could from a day spent meeting nice people, and awoken the next day just as convinced that she had no real choice but to abort the child she was carrying. But instead she opened her heart to the possibilities that came with allowing someone else to help her, allowing herself to trust someone else, allowing herself the option of finding out whether the love being offered her would (unlike her too-broken mother's) still be there for her the next day.

    I think it is a movie about the process of choosing the most hopeful of options available, choosing to take on the difficulties likely in those those options, and the tremendous grace and joy that are the result of choosing to do what is "best". And it's about one of the many, many stories around us of people choosing hopefulness.

  6. Those are all excellent comments, Cathy. Yes, it was a very powerful and compelling show. There is more here than what I can say, but I agree with your insights, and thank you for them. I loved the message of hopefulness, of love and possibility and of God giving us second chances through the people He puts around us. Those are the things I felt were present, among others as well. I very much enjoyed it.

    Thank you for watching it with me.

  7. We should do another movie, Cathy. What's your pleasure?

  8. Well, there is a Cary Grant / Rosalind Russell comedy that I haven't seen in years, but remember as being very funny with a bit of an edge to it -- any interest in watching His Girl Friday?

  9. Of course!

    Up in a week or so.